The race for District 2’s City Council seat in San Diego has reached a new level of acrimony around a building height limit controversy. Democrat Sarah Boot claimed her rival, Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, changed her position on a controversial city proposal to increase the height limit density around a new transit stop in Clairemont.

Our determination: She did. Zapf was, at the very least, open to smart growth around the transit stop and yet now she considers the height limit sacrosanct. The full explanation should help you understand the row.

The city’s planning director said he killed and buried the plan.

Common Core Causes Teacher Absences

Substitute teachers are in higher demand in San Diego schools this year, but not because regular teachers are out sick. No, they’re out taking classes themselves — elementary school teachers and many middle and high school teachers too.

The teachers are getting an education in the new Common Core curriculum they must follow. Some parents are miffed that the district hasn’t found better things for students to do than sit in class with a sub.

There’s a bonus for the substitutes besides more money: They’ll get a chance to cozy up to principals and understand how individual schools work. That could be helpful because some of them may get hired to fill the jobs of expensive veteran teachers whom the district is coaxing into retirement.

Why We Can’t Get the Neighborhoods We Want

“Everyone loves these neighborhoods that were built 100 years ago, with thin streets, and houses close together and buildings of different sizes close together, and yet we’re not able to build those things now,” says Benjamin Ross, author of the new book “Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism.”

Ross is “trying to figure out why, and why it’s so hard to build transit.”

In a new Q-and-A feature, we sit down in Little Italy to talk to Ross about the challenges facing people who support dense neighborhoods and mass transit.

“Don’t be shy about forming coalitions,” Ross said. “Don’t be scared of criticism from neighborhood groups saying you’re allied with developers, and don’t be scared of coalitions with neighborhoods whose interests are aligned with the greater good.”

Reader’s Guide to Drones

As we kick off our quest to better understand the benefits and risks of becoming the nation’s top center for drone manufacturing, we’ve put together a reader’s guide to the drone industry. We have links to stories about military drones and how “domestic unmanned aircraft systems” — non-military drones — are used for things like law enforcement surveillance.

City May Give Money to Opera in Crisis

A city commissioner notes that the San Diego Opera is vying for city grants against organizations “that have worked hard and do strategic planning and are managed well.” But he still thinks the severely troubled opera should get $160,000 in municipal money, KPBS reports.

That’s still less than half as much as it could have gotten. “I feel it’s a little unfair yet it’s understandable given recent events,” an opera board member says.

The council will make the final call.

Culture Report: We’re Still Here

Sometimes it seems like the arts community of San Diego spends half its time explaining to the world why the stuff it spends its other half on — art — is actually worthwhile. Talk about an inferiority complex.

It turns out, though, that the arts community not only sings its own praises but actually plays a major role in the local economy. The Culture Report, our compilation of news about the arts, has the details about a new report.

The Culture Report also has updates on a new home (but, apparently not a new name) for Space 4 Art, a giggly TV reporter (my favorite kind!), an attempt at a marathon theater performance, national attention for the fabulousness of a local theater, and the local gay surfing community. (Who knew?)

Better Teeth Through Mexico

You may know some people who’ve gone across the border to Mexico for dental care. It may be the best option for some locals, especially if they need major dental work but don’t have dental insurance.

It’s not just a Tijuana phenomenon, Atlantic Cities reports. It checks in with a Mexican dentist in the city of Juarez whose prices can be up to 70 percent cheaper than in the U.S.: “I can count my Mexican patients on my fingers. No, they all come from Austin, Houston, even Florida, Colorado, Alaska…”

According to the story, an estimated 42 percent of Americans don’t have dental insurance.

Quick News Hits: Decimal Point Doomsday

• A San Diego cop has been arrested for domestic violence again — for the second time in two weeks. (U-T)

• Work has stopped on a mural in a San Diego police substation, but a police spokesman said the stoppage has nothing to do with supposed complaints that the people depicted in the mural — including a cop killed in the line of duty and a current city councilwoman — are all black. Instead, the spokesman told 10News that the mural needed to be created on panels so it could be preserved over the long term.

• “The state Supreme Court upheld Monday the city of San Diego’s right to shrink health care benefits for retired workers, closing the door on legal challenges to 2012 labor pacts projected to save taxpayers more than $700 million over the next 25 years,” the U-T reports.

• Uh-oh. “Escondido is suing an 87-year-old widow for up to $876,000 for paying her avocado ranch’s water bills on time and, at least on paper, in full,” the U-T reports.

What went wrong? A decimal point. Something else went wrong: the city is making an accusation of “wrongful conduct,” even though the bills were paid on time.

• Health alert! I’ve picked up a case of Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease from a friend’s kid. It’s not quite as dire as it sounds, but it’s still unpleasant.

Fortunately, the disease heals on its own. As for my case of Foot-in-Mouth Disease, that one’s a chronic chronic condition. And Obamacare can’t help one bit. Figures!

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president-elect of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.